The beauty of unstructured time

For a family so used to schedules and specific things happening at very specific times, the weekends can feel a little daunting.

Oh sure, the boys go off for four hours every Saturday so that the parental units can regain an iota of sanity, so we can count on that one thing happening without fail.  This weekend, I had glorious visions of me and my true love at the Apple Festival, drinking cider and smelling apples and eating amazing things…

And then we remembered…people.  We don’t like to people.  So instead, we went shoe shopping! Wee!

Okay, sometimes it’s hard to get me to focus.  I think I have a plan, but the plan goes sideways and we come up with a new plan.
Today I had a new plan, one I wanted to at least try to stick with.  We’d take the boys grocery shopping, come back for lunch, and then go apple picking.

Keep in mind that when I say that something is “unstructured”, I mean that we don’t have the day planned out in 15-minute blocks like their school days.  We have ideas about what needs to happen, but we also know that most of those things can and will be sacrificed should everything fall apart.

You know those ideas that sound great on paper but are not so nice in the execution?  Taking two easily distracted children apple picking is every bit of that.  It sounds so idyllic, the sunshine and the cool early autumn air, the smell of apples and the sight of pumpkins and mums.  It’s all really lovely. Sounds like a scene in a movie, actually.

Until your actors forget their lines, their stunt doubles call in sick, and the person in charge of keeping everyone close at hand for their scene has disappeared.

Although the day itself was full of challenges and all of our typical planning out of each stage (yes, even on unstructured days we do this) and reminding the boys of every move we will make (which is really exhausting), I think of smaller more beautiful moments:

Wonder Boy to his brother: “Look to the west!  Look over there! There’s a barn in the west!!”
And a little later, as Wonder Boy quietly hummed “Piano Man” (one of his new favorite songs) to himself.
Or perhaps earlier in the day, when Speedy helped the cashier at the grocery store by spinning the bagging carousel whenever she prompted him ever so patiently.
Or the moment when, after seeing Speedy eat successfully without any struggles, my husband turned to me and said “Maybe I need to rethink how we handle mealtimes.”

You see, this evening, we allowed them to eat dinner while watching a movie- something educational and relatively chill in its nature.  And as Speedy’s one to one aide had observed, when he’s occupied with something like this, he eats.  He doesn’t exhibit any of the usual signs of anxiety, and he often eats the entire meal.  That was a beautiful thing to see first hand, and I was really taken aback that my husband was open to setting aside one of the few non-negotiables- family dinners happen at the table.
Sure, statistics do show the many benefits for adults and for children when mealtime is taken together and sitting around the dining room table.  My counter to that is that I would bet that upon further examination those studies did not take neurodiversity into consideration.  That the white-picket-fence families with 2.5 children (I’ve often wondered about that odd number) who are neurotypical are the ones examined.  And yes, for those families it makes a lot of sense.  But we really must appreciate the needs of the individual, and set our children up for success.  If that means alternate meal configurations, then I’m all for it and I’m really grateful to have my husband on board.

But my all-time favorite moment from the day:  When my husband broke his “grumpy old man” persona and left me absolutely guffawing.  It doesn’t happen often, because life is so busy, but my word these are the moments which keep me going.

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